Temperature monitoring in food production
Temperature is critical in food preparation and production. It is essential to store, cook, chill and serve food at the right temperature, and to be able to prove that that is the case. It’s not just restaurants who need to be able to do this, but any facility that stores and prepares food – including hospitals, hotels, airlines, schools. Temperature and temperature monitoring is the key to ensuring:
- Safety – protecting customers, patients, students and staff from food-borne bacteria and illnesses.
- Compliance – food production is rightly a highly regulated industry, and operators in this sector need to comply with stringent standards. Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) is the internationally recognised approach to identifying and managing food safety risk. Production facilities should have a plan in place to meet the HACCP standard. Non-compliance risks fines, reputational damage, law suits and potentially increase insurance premiums.
- Inventory management – any food items that have not been stored, prepared or cooked at the right temperature area a safety risk and will usually have to be thrown away. This represents a significant financial loss, along with the environmental impact of adding to the global food waste problem.
Meeting HACCP standards requires regular monitoring and recording of temperatures – of chiller and freezer storage, of ovens, hotplates and fryers and of the food itself. In the past, this was done manually, often with a hand-held pocket thermometer, and with the results written down on paper.
From manual to digital
Now, however, many food preparation operators recognise the massive benefits of automated digital temperature management. With a digital system, temperature records are automatically sent from the thermometer or sensor to an HACCP compliance software program.
In chillers, freezers and ovens, temperature can be monitored via fixed sensors, which record the temperature at regular intervals. They send the temperature reading to the software via Bluetooth or a wireless network.
The system can also send an alert, via SMS or email, if the temperature in the chiller or freezer falls below the safe range – whether that’s down to a door being left open, loss of power or equipment failure.
Alternatively, a hand-held thermometer can be used for chillers and freezers – one that is smart enough to automatically sense which chiller or freezer it is in, and record that information along with the temperature.
For monitoring of food, facilities use a hand-held sensor. For non-frozen food, they use a probe (most food safety issues stem from the outer 10mm of the food) which uses Bluetooth to send the reading to the software. In the case of frozen food, where a probe cannot penetrate, they use a non-contact infra-red (IR) sensor to accurately capture the temperature. For food temperature monitoring, the software program can also be used to send reminders, ensuring that all checks are done on schedule.
The benefits of digital monitoring
For food production facilities of all types, the benefits of digital temperature management are significant:
- Time saving – the average food business carrying out manual temperature checks spends 2-4 hours a day recording data. In a large facility it can be even longer. With digital temperature management, that time can be redirected into food preparation and customer service.
- Elimination of human error and/or manipulation – manual systems are open to human error – a staff member forgetting a check, a mis-read of the temperature, or a mis-recording of the data. If a check is forgotten, a manual system is open to manipulation, with data being ‘backdated’.
- Eliminates paper –manual temperature records generate an incredible amount of paper. Even in a small or medium facility, it’s estimated at 10,000 sheets per year – that generates a significant cost for storage and handling, and with each sheet taking 6-9 years to decompose, it carries an environmental burden too. Paper can also get lost or damaged. An electronic system eliminates paper, reducing cost, effort and environmental impact.
- Reduced food waste – with all food and equipment at the right temperature, stock is protected, and food waste and lost inventory is reduced.
- Real time visibility – automated electronic monitoring gives the food production facility an immediate view of all checks and any risks, and the opportunity to intervene early to stop a problem escalating.
- Reduced risk – the facility can be sure that all the required checks have been done, reducing the likelihood of temperature related issues, unsafe food being served, insurance claims and loss of reputation. If a fridge/freezer door is accidentally left open, an automated alert reduces the risk of stock being spoiled. Electronic data can be kept secure, reducing the risk of loss or corruption.
- Compliance – with data captured and stored electronically, businesses can be sure they have all the records they need to comply with regulations.
- Streamlined auditing – records can automatically be accessed and reviewed by auditors.
- Reduced insurance premiums – by automating the process of temperature management, and therefore the risk, facilities may be eligible for lower insurance premiums.
Choosing the right temperature specialist partner
As we can see, the digitisation of temperature monitoring can be a game-changer for food production facilities, but it requires reliable, high quality thermometers and sensors, and a provider who can give you expert advice and service . ECEFast are experts in the provision and calibration of sensors that help food production facilities around Australia.
Digital temperature control in practice
Fast food, safe food
For one fast food chain, ECEFast provides a monitoring kit for almost 1000 stores. The kit consists of thermometers and probes which are used to monitor the temperature in fridges, of the oil in fryers, of the meat patties as they are cooked and of the ice-cream. The kit is refreshed periodically and calibrated every year. The ECEFast monitoring solution helps to ensure food safety and consistent quality.
Food safety in the air
ECEFast carried out a project with a leading airline, who were previously logging all their food production temperature records manually – generating enough paper to fill a truck every month! Not only did they want to reduce paper and save time, but they wanted to be able to link temperature records for each food item to the cart and the flight on which it would be served. ECEFast provided a solution that enabled the airline to automate the process, eliminate all paper records and track food safety data against cart and flight information.
Get in touch
If you’re battling with the time and cost of manual temperature checks; if you’ve got a high level of food waste; or you want to eliminate paper from your food safety process and streamline your HACCP compliance, talk to the temperature monitoring and calibration experts at ECEFast.
ECEFast – temperature made simple.